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Cordial Democracy: The Family and the State in Raízes do Brasil


A reassessment of Brazilian historian Sérgio Buarque de Holanda's Raízes do Brasil, published in the Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies.

In Raízes do Brasil Sérgio Buarque de Holanda identifies a set of social practices that were imagined to structure the Brazilian private sphere, designated by the notion of “cordiality,” as an obstacle to significant democratic innovation in the political sphere. Yet his critique of “cordial modes of relation” is compromised by an essentialist conception of kinship structures and the social forms they engendered.

This article seeks to demonstrate that the logic of the text ultimately overturns this inherited premise of a natural and therefore immutable domestic structure and that, in keeping with Holanda’s conceptualization of the task of the historian as one of demystifying the past in order to unburden the political imagination of the present, such a reading advances Holanda’s own vision of a democracy still to come.

Last Updated 4 years ago